By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 26, 2009
NEWARK, Jan. 25 -- His team trailing by one point with 45 seconds to play, Georgetown's DaJuan Summers drove to the basket for a layup only to see a Seton Hall defender smack the ball away.
In the mad scramble that followed, center Greg Monroe came up with the ball and fired it to Austin Freeman. But Freeman's shot didn't make it as far as the rim.
The Hoyas tossed up three more frantic shots in the 37 seconds that remained -- a three-pointer that clanged off the rim, a three-pointer that fell short and a hopeless jumper just before the buzzer sounded.
The result was yet another defeat -- this one more humbling than the two that preceded it -- as 12th-ranked Georgetown fell to Seton Hall, 65-60, in a game marred by off-target shooting by both squads and poor decision-making by the Hoyas down the stretch.
It was hardly the way Georgetown (12-6, 3-4 Big East) had hoped to start its seven-day stretch of three conference road games. Instead of solidifying themselves as contenders, the Hoyas handed Seton Hall (10-9, 1-6) its first Big East win.
"We're in a hole," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III conceded. "We're in a rut. We're in a bad situation right now."
The Hoyas started their Big East campaign with a stunning upset of then-No. 2 Connecticut, but have now lost three consecutive games. Worse, their last two defeats have come at the hands of unranked teams, West Virginia and Seton Hall.
"There's a lot of time left," Thompson said, noting that the Hoyas aren't yet halfway through their Big East schedule (nine of 16 games remain). "That being said, this is an unforgiving league."
Nothing underscored the point better than the relentless way Seton Hall battled against the heavily favored Hoyas at Prudential Center on Sunday afternoon.
Both the Pirates' starting and backup centers fouled out in an effort to contain Monroe and Summers. Their best shooter, guard Jeremy Hazell, missed all 10 of his three-point attempts yet finished with a game-high 23 points -- 13 of them coming on the free throw line.
"I told him, 'Just keep shooting! Don't worry about it!' " Seton Hall Coach Bobby Gonzalez said. "He just kept scratching and clawing!"
And though it made for some ugly basketball, Seton Hall's scratching-and-clawing formula proved Georgetown's undoing.
While Georgetown is known for its defense, Seton Hall's change-up of zone and man-to-man defenses rattled the Hoyas, particularly in the second half. Stymied in its efforts to get the ball inside, Georgetown took 22 shots from beyond the arc but sank just three (13.6 percent).
Summers and Freeman, their leading scorers, made one basket each the entire game. (Summers was 1 of 8; Freeman, 1 of 9.) And the entire team made only seven baskets in the second half.
The Hoyas' 16 turnovers hurt their cause, translating to 18 points for Seton Hall. The Pirates finished with 14 points off fast breaks; the Hoyas none.
"We made it a blood-and-guts possession," Gonzalez said. "We were desperate for the win."
Gonzalez also credited the returning members of Seton Hall's 1989 Final Four team, who were honored at halftime, for having "brought some magic to the building."
Georgetown effectively muzzled Hazell, the Big East's second-leading scorer, in the first half, holding him to 2-of-11 shooting. And the Hoyas led by seven with 50 seconds remaining in the half.
But Seton Hall's Robert Mitchell (20 points) scored six straight points to pare the deficit to one, with the Pirates trailing 27-26 at the break.
Georgetown quickly reclaimed its seven-point lead in the second half. But Seton Hall didn't fold. Hazell's shooting was still off, but he drew a foul nearly every time he slashed to the basket.
With Georgetown's perimeter game shaky, the Hoyas' smartest play was working the ball inside to Monroe. When they did -- and Monroe spun around and took the shot rather than kicking it out -- the points came easily (he hit 6 of 7 attempts).
But with the game in the balance and the clock ticking down, the Hoyas seemed to panic.
"We wanted to see if we could get it inside and penetrate," Thompson said. "All we took were threes, and that was not the plan. Our decision-making in certain situations has to change."
Said senior guard Jessie Sapp, who had a team-high nine rebounds, as well as eight points and four assists: "We felt we could win the game all the way down to the last seconds. Teams are going to go on runs; we're not afraid of teams going on runs. But we've got to do a little better job of executing in those situations."